What would an Andre Villas Boas Tottenham look like? Tactical Analysis
Without the ball: AVB presses high up the field and is unlikely to sit back against anyone, not even Man City or United. One particular issue at Chelsea was that of a slow back line and it would be fair to say they failed to cope with defending any immediate counter attack.AVB conducts his team in this way so that the pitch is made as small as possible for opponents: by squeezing up the back line and using the off side trap aggressively – the opposite to when in possession. This tactic requires quick defenders to successfully cope with any threat of the long ball over the top.Pressing in the right areas and at the right times can lead to a significant source for lots of goals:
“A study in 1988 of 16 international matches showed that possession was won 13% of the time in the attacking third. A staggering 66% of goals scored were from this 13%.”Paul Cooper
The above image was taken from an excellent article about Brendan Rodgers’ pressing approach and shows just how effective high pressing can be – the left back in the above image is limited to route one or to play the ball back to his goal keeper, who is also likely to play a route one ball. Route one football more often than not results in the ball being turned over back to the defending side.While Rodgers and Boas represent different schools of football philosophy, their approach to pressing is similar. Rodgers relies on the concepts derived from Tiki Taka football, AVB however you could argue takes much of his concepts from Rinus Michels’ totaalvoetball of Ajax in the 1970′s, a type of football that Michels actually called himself ‘pressing football’:
“I would describe what the journalists call ‘total football’, as ‘pressing football’. To me, this expression seems to put the emphasis on the type of football I was trying to create with Ajax and with the Dutch national team in the 1974 World Cup. What I wanted to create was a game in which all ten outfield players pressed forward all the time – even when we didn’t have the ball!” Rinus Michels, ex Ajax Manager and creator of ‘totaal voetball’
Differences however, lie in the rigidity of structure in formation between total football and Villas-Boas’ approach. Many would argue here that Tiki-Taka is simply a rebrand of Total Football, however there are many differences between the two that have come around as a response to player strengths within a team.
Why Andre Villas-Boas makes sense for Liverpool « Statactics // LFC analysis
Interesting interview with Daniel Sousa:
AVB: There are more spaces in football than people think. Even if you play against a deep lying team, you immediately get half of the pitch. And after that, in attacking midfield, you can provoke the opponent with the ball, provoke him to move forward or sideways and open up a space. But many players can’t understand the game.They can’t think about or read the game. Things have become too easy for football players: high salaries, a good life, with a maximum of five hours work a day and so they can’t concentrate, can’t think about the game.Barcelona’s players are completely the opposite. Their players are permanently thinking about the game, about their movement, about how to provoke their opponent with the position of the ball.
DS: Does a top team need to dominate possession to win a match?
AVB: Not necessarily, for a simple reason. In Portugal we have this idea of match control based on recycling possession. That’s what we in Portugal, want to achieve in our football: top teams that dominate by ball possession, that push the opponent back to their area.If you go find the top English teams pre-Arsene Wenger they tell you how to control a match in the opposite way without much ball possession, direct football, searching for the second ball.Maybe now, controlling possession is the reference point for a top team, but that happens because they have much more quality players than the other teams, so it would be wrong not to take advantage of those individual skills.
DS: One thing Louis Van Gaal says is that you can control a match offensively and defensively but if you keep in control defensively you can also determine where your opponent will play on the pitch.
AVB: Yes, I agree. In that sense, yes. But the idea we now have in Portugal of match control is about having more ball possession than the opponent.
DS: Exactly, but match control has to result in scoring chances. That’s the only way it makes sense. There are teams that have like 60 per cent ball possession and that results in nothing at all.
AVB: That’s it. Match control always has to have a purpose, a main goal.
DS: And in that concept of match control, are there any sectors of the team more important than others?
AVB: Well, that depends on the mechanisms you want to use defensively and offensively. Let me give you an example:Top teams nowadays don’t look to forward penetration from their midfielders because the coach prefers them to stand laterally (horizontally) and then use the movement of the wingers as the main source to create chances.So, you, as a coach, have to know exactly what kind of players you have and analyse the squad to decide how you want to organise your team offensively. And then, there are maybe some players more important than others.For instance, many teams play with defensive pivots, small defensive midfielders. And, except Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso, and maybe Esteban Cambiasso and one or two more, they are players that are limited to the horizontal part of the game: they keep passing the ball from one side to another, left or right, without any kind of vertical penetration.Can’t you use your defensive midfielder to introduce a surprise factor in the match? Let’s say, first he passes laterally and then, suddenly, forward?
DS: What’s the difference between playing with three or four midfielders?
AVB: Rafa Benitez created a 4-4-2 much more dynamic than the usual English 4-4-2. Because he introduced speed in ball possession, he gave it variation between forward and lateral passes.The usual classic English 4-4-2 is more basic: a penetrating midfielder and another one that stays in position; a winger who moves inside and another one who stays wide; a full back who overlaps and another one who covers the defence.If you talk about a 4-4-2 diamond, that’s totally different. You play with two pivotal midfielders, one defensive and one offensive, so it creates many more problems for your opponent. Defensively, though, you take a great risk of conceding too much space because you are very central and you lack width. You have to create compensation mechanisms.Me, I’m a 4-3-3 fan, not 4-4-2. I don’t see how a classic 4-4-2 could work in the Spanish league, where every team plays 4-3-3 and the superiority of the midfield has become crucial. What Mourinho did with Chelsea with his 4-3-3 was something never seen before: a dynamic structure, aggressive, with aggressive transitions…and then there is Barca’s 4-3-3, which wouldn’t work in England, because of the higher risk of losing the ball.If you have midfielders like Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard you don’t want your forwards to come and play between lines, because Lampard and Gerrard have a large field of action and very often move in to those spaces. Lampard was often irritated with Didier Drogba because Drogba wanted to receive the ball there but then, amazingly, his first touch was poor, so he lost the ball and we were exposed to a transition from the opponent. So we had to limit Drogba from going there and ask him to play deeper.
DS: Is recycling possession essential in the attacking organisation of a top team?
AVB: Well, it’s essential to every team. Every team want to score. That’s the purpose of the game. Barcelona play laterally only after a forward pass. See how the centre backs go out with ball, how they construct the play. They open up (moving wider), so that the right or left-back can join the midfield line. Guardiola has talked about it: the centre backs provoke the opponent, invite them forward then, if the opponent applies quick pressure the ball goes to the other central defender, and this one makes a vertical pass – Not to the midfielders, who have their back turned to the ball, but to those moving between lines, Andres Iniesta or Lionel Messi, or even directly to the striker.Then they play the second ball with short lay-offs, either to the wingers who have cut inside or the midfielders, who now have the game in front of them. They have an enormous capacity not to lose the ball, to do things with an unbelievable precision.Another thing about Barcelona, there is always a full-back who arrives earlier in the attack, the other stays in position initially but then progressively joins the attack, as the ball circulates on the other side of the pitch, so he can be a surprise element. When you least expect he arrives. He chooses the perfect timing for the overlap.
DS: Louis Van Gaal says a forward pass is not a risk, but a lateral pass is because when you make a horizontal pass you are much more open, more exposed in case you lose the ball.
AVB: Yes, that’s right. And there are differences between a lateral pass and a slightly diagonal pass.Something that used to happen a lot in England, when teams played 4-4-2, was that the central midfielders exchanged the ball between them in parallel passes so what we did with Lampard, or Liverpool did with Gerrard, was to try to cut into that space between the two midfielders with fast movement from Lampard (or Gerrard). If they got the ball there, there were already two opponents eliminated in the attacking transition.
DS: How do you attack a team that plays with park-the-bus tactics?
AVB: Let’s see. Juventus play with a very deep line, they don’t put any pressure on you high up the field. Nowadays most teams don’t. It can limit you because they control the space behind them with perfect offside timing.They limit your forward passes as well because they are all grouped within 30 or 40 metres, completely closed in two lines of four plus the two forwards. So you start constructing “short”, begin the attacking process with your centre-backs of full-backs carrying the ball forward to the midfield area but then you want to pass the ball to the midfielders and you don’t know how to do it, because there is an ultra-limited space, everything is completely closed.
DS: So what to do?
AVB: You have to provoke them with the ball, which is something most teams can’t do. I cannot understand it. It’s an essential factor in the game. At this time of ultra defensive teams, you will have to learn how to provoke them with the ball. It’s the ball they want, so you have to defy them using the ball as a carrot.
Louis Van Gaal’s idea is one of continuous circulation, one side to the other, until the moment that, when you change direction, an space opens up inside and you go through it.So, he provokes the opponent with lateral circulation of the ball, until the moment that the opponent will start to pressure out of despair. What I believe in is to challenge the rival by driving the ball into him. That’s something Pep Guardiola believes is decisive. And that’s something that Henk ten Cate also took to Avram Grant’s Chelsea. He took it with him from Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona. We did it differently at Chelsea under Mourinho.Our attacking construction was different, with the ball going directly to the full-backs or midfielders. With Ten Cate, play was started with John Terry or Ricardo Carvalho, to invite the opponent’s pressure. Then you had one less opponent in the next step of construction.